Providing Employee Feedback

Surefire Ways to Botch Employee Feedback

As a leader, you should know how to provide employee feedback without failing miserably. It is your responsibility to help workers achieve their full potential, which is why you should avoid the following don’ts of giving feedback:

  1. Indirect Feedback

Some executives don’t know how to be blunt when speaking with employees about their performance. They deliver a meandering speech that touches on every issue except the important one. For instance, Robin’s correspondence with a vendor is unclear, which results in a botched delivery. To fulfill his duty, manager attempts to confront Robin; however, the dialog unfurls as follows:

Manager: Robin, I’ve been informed that the client is concerned about the inaccurate order fulfillment. The VP demands that we achieve at least 98% rate of order accuracy. I expect you to work toward the perfection of your liaison skills, in order to meet the company’s order fulfillment goals.

Robin: Sorry, what?

When the company’s reputation is at stake, politeness shouldn’t supersede directness. A more effective and blunt statement would be:

Manager: Robin, the vendor botched deadlines because your e-mail conversations are sloppy and unclear. As a result, we are at risk of losing a customer that drives a large percentage of our profits. Let’s discuss how we can achieve higher clarity in your correspondence with the vendor.

Robin: Oh, I had no idea that I was unclear. May I send my email for your approval next time?

  1. Vague Feedback

A major no-no of providing employee feedback is to strip the message of any impact by shrouding it in amorphous, vague language. When in the first example, the manager says that “the client is concerned,” they fail to convey the gravity of the situation. What does “concerned” even mean? Are they pissed off or just mildly upset? The word doesn’t carry any weight, and, hence, can be simply brushed off. Understandably, the employee doesn’t realize the consequences of his actions.

The second example, on the other hand, is more effective in clarifying the situation for Robin. “We are at risk of losing a customer” is a phrase that puts everything into perspective. Now, the employee knows that his jumbled emails might cost the company a customer. Given that the maintenance of a relationship with the customer is extremely profitable for the company, Robin cannot afford to be stuck in his old ways. Otherwise, the company will lose money.

  1. Feedback without a Dialogue

Another way to fail at giving feedback to the employee is to turn it into a monotonous managerial monologue. When a feedback session becomes one-sided, trouble is guaranteed. Therefore, in addition to offering your insight, engage in an open dialogue. Let them chime in and make sure you really listen. Employees need to feel heard. Also, by having a conversation with a worker, you’ll have a chance to understand why they behave the way they do. Maybe they lack skills, tools, or knowledge. In any case, by letting an employee talk and listening to them, you increase the likelihood that they will reciprocate – listen to you.

  1. Feedback with “But”

You can undermine everything you say by using the word “BUT.” Yes, it is a small word; nonetheless, its destructive power equals that of a ton of dynamite. The “but” bomb in a sentence looks like this:

You are doing this great, BUT…

Everything that comes before the poisonous word is likely to fall on deaf ears and is completely ignored by the employee. They know all too well that the “but” ushers in negative comments. Therefore, the employee will focus only on the negative part of your feedback and will be resistant to make a positive change.

When cozying up to a worker, don’t spoil your speech with the poisonous word. Otherwise, you’ll look manipulative. If you cannot banish the word from your vocabulary, stop cushioning your feedback with niceties and get right to the business.

  1. Irregular Feedback

The key to flopping your feedback is to provide it infrequently. As a manager, you should be regularly present in the office. In the same vein, you should consistently provide your feedback. Otherwise, employees would feel that you don’t care. Their performance would feel not important. They might even start slacking and wishing that any problems would disappear.

Unfortunately, instead of disappearing, problems pile up. And so does your resentment and frustration at ones ignoring them. If you are stingy on feedback, you are likely to witness a situation like this:

  • July: Jenifer gets a coveted promotion. Right from the get-go, she fails to show a proper level of performance. Her manager is concerned but silent. Jenifer is not aware of her poor performance.
  • August: The manager is still perturbed by Jenifer’s performance, but remains silent.
  • September: The manager is feeling annoyed, but doesn’t provide any feedback to the employee.
  • October: The manager vents his frustrations to peers while not talking with Jenifer.
  • November: The manager is complaining to his boss; Jenifer knows nothing.
  • December: The manager documents the issue, but doesn’t inform the employee.
  • January: The manager complains to HR without notifying Jenifer.
  • February: The manager is grinding his teeth, but keeps his silence.
  • March: During an annual review, the manager explodes in anger and shares his thoughts with Jenifer. He tells the employee that she must show a major performance improvement in two weeks. Jenifer quits.

To avoid fraught situations like the one above, always provide regular and consistent feedback to your workers. An annual performance review is an event that shouldn’t bring surprises.

  1. Feedback without Direction

Your feedback should always mean something. The whole point behind sharing your insights with employees is to resolve a problem. It is naïve to think that a brief dialogue will make a long-standing problem disappear. If an issue has been brewing for months, it is not likely to get resolved by a thirty-minute conversation. It means that you should work with a staff member to develop an actionable plan for solving the problem. Decide together what steps to take and don’t forget to monitor the progress.

  1. Feedback without Collaboration

The previous paragraph has the words “together” and “progress.” The former is needed to achieve the latter. Therefore, don’t be a dictator issuing commands left and right without taking any participation in solving an issue. If the employee sees that you are willing to collaborate, they are more likely to comply. Collaboration builds trust; therefore, it is inherently encouraging.

  1. Completely Negative Feedback

Always providing negative feedback is a great way to undermine confidence in your employees. If you want your staff to have faith in their ability to improve, you should encourage them every now and then. Make sure you bolster their positive attitude with a reassuring comment. Take every opportunity to praise employees for good performance, and you won’t have to berate them for bad one.